Medicare patients are required to go for annual wellness visits with their physician each year, however Coordinated Health Primary Care Physician Joseph Laureti, DO, says that wellness visits should be an important part of everyones healthcare routine.” Annual wellness visits give us the opportunity to check in on our patients overall health so we can create a healthcare plan to prevent issues before they even get started, which is a big part of medicine,” says Dr. Laureti.
According to Dr. Laureti, wellness visits are not the same as a physical exam. A physical exam tends to be more extensive while wellness visits focuses more on preventative care, screenings and wellness planning. Dr. Laureti says that during a well visit you can expect your physician to:
- Check your height, weight and blood pressure
- Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range is important because it can prevent serious cardiovascular issues, including heart disease. If your physician determines that you have high blood pressure, you may be prescribed medication in order to bring it down or referred to a cardiologist.
- Your physician will use your weight and height to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI), which indicates how much body fat you have. A BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal. If you fall below or above that range, your physician will work with you to develop a plan to bring you to a healthier weight.
- Review your medical and family history
- Your family history may put you at an increased risk for conditions like heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and more. In order to be considered high risk, you generally need to have the disease in more than one close relative, diseases that occur earlier than expected or a certain combination of diseases. If your physician determines that you are at an increased risk for something you may be asked to go to screenings earlier than generally recommended.
- Review your health risk assessment
- A health risk assessment is especially important for older adults when it comes to preventing issues that could be a problem as they age and includes questions about your health status, injury risks and behavioral health
- Screen for cognitive impairment
- Screening for cognitive impairment is now mandatory as part of Medicare Wellness Visits. These screenings give physicians the chance to detect signs of dementia and diseases like Alzheimers early.
- Create a screening schedule for the next five years
- Medicare requires physicians to give out a wellness schedule that includes all recommended screenings to patients. These can include everything from prostate exams, mammograms to cardiac screenings.
In general, a wellness visit takes around 30 minutes and the cost is often covered by insurance. Though Dr. Laureti says wellness visits are important for everyone, he stresses the importance of wellness visits as you age. “As we get older, we do need more checks and screenings that you don’t want to put off or miss,” he says.